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tv   [untitled]    April 12, 2012 11:00pm-11:30pm EDT

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idea. he also says $500,000 for the merrimic. he sees wells personally and wells turns him down. so he he sasays, how about $10, now and $100,000 when i blow up the merrimac? he lessened his price. louis goldsboro writes to his friend saying, what has become of the $100,000 blowing up man? has his scheme collapsed or is the water too cold? secret inventions are also proposed. in fact, there are people who write in that say, my invention is so unbelievable, i can't tell you what it is. i can give you a rough outline, but i really can't tell you everything, although it can whip anything afloat. and they also insist that i will
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tell my idea to the president alone, or, if the president is not available, the secretary of war, maybe navy. in fact, louis winterbauer writes in and the navy says, thank you for suggesting your idea, however, we cannot judge it because you gave us no particulars. in fact, everyone wants to get in on the act. lincoln gets a letter from an unexpected source, a pastor from a baptist church in new hampshire, william sausen, who writes in saying, i have perfected an invention of the most marvelous destructive power that can immediately destroy the most powerful warships at a distance. you, sir, may smile at all this and suppose it is only the dream of an excited brain. but only a few days are needed to convince the world of its reality. the united states will be given
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the power to resist all the world's navy. and he also says, i am fully willing to do a test and then will sit back and wait for the offers to flood in. well, if shells and other machines couldn't destroy the merrimac, it is suggested, how about using one of nature's basic elements? fire. or fire and patrolling. this idea of turning the monitor into some sort of flame-throwing vesuvius, equipped the monitor with tanks of in flflammable, benzene, coil oil, naphtha, which is very close to gasoline. you spray the merrimac using fire hoses and then either the fire of her own guns will ignite
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it or you use a rocket to do so. and that, in a sense, this will take the enemy out with almost no effort. in fact, one of the most elaborate plans sent in was by robert chesebrough. you may have come into contact with him within the last few days. he is the inventor of vaseline. i was also thrilled to know that how to burn the merrimac was written by brooklyn fire company, so they knew how to start fires. he said what do you sput a $5,000-tank in the monitor, use a force pump, and you spray the
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merrimac with this fluid. in 15 minutes, her gun deck will be untenable, in 30, there will probably be an explosion. it can be readied in three days, costs about $5,000, and he says, i'm aware that the cry of inhumane warfare will be raised. but, he says, the object is to only induce surrender. as soon as the rebels surrender, then the monitor can switch to spring water and it will wash the flames off. and, again, you will achieve your ends. if fire couldn't be used, how about live steam? in fact, there are several people who suggest that if you want a dead ironclad, you inject live steam. and you basically do very similar. you have the hoses attached to the monitor's steam drum or a special extra boiler, and you spray live steam through the merrimac's gun ports.
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and if steam is not practical, let's just use plain water. again, that smokestack was an object of fascination that, again, you use a force pump, you direct these jets of water. i'm sort of imagining the monitor like one of those fire boats in new york harbor with water spraying out everywhere, only in this case it's either naptha or water. if we can get water to go down the merrimac's smokestacks, 10 gallons will basically blow out the furnace doors, scalding everyone within reach, and no doubt the confederate would surrender in a great hurry. but there was also, then, the fear that what was good for the rebel goose might also be applied to the union gander. and there were fears that this exact same tactic could be used against the monitor. people write in with all different strategems about how
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to go about destroying the merrimac. some offer basic ideas that navy officers, of course, had already thought of. some say, well, let's use a giant net, as if the merrimac is some sort of large guppy, that it can be scooped up with these tugs and you would grab the merrimac that way. also, to use, again, sort of a chain lasso that you fire this grappling hook over the merrimac and capture it that way. you have two individuals, edward post, to latch onto the merrimac so she couldn't get away and hammer her in submission that way. or there was the cradling
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option. again, you use this grappling hook and a chain, you shoot it over the merrimac, it latches ahold, and according to its author, jay miller, that you could then rock the merrimac back and forth until water starts pouring in and it surrenders or sinks. he's not shy about his idea because he says, let this rough suggestion be well studied. reminding gideon wells how simple a thing was david sling in taking on the goliath. c.l.pasquale has one of the crazier ideas which i call dump and sink in which what you do is you have a 23-wheel cannon on the back of this steamer -- again, look how small the merrimac is in comparison -- you ram the merrimac, dragging with
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it another cannon falling on the other side, and basically like a large dump truck you would sink the merrimac using, basically, just excess weight. but as i said, there were fears that the confederates could use basically these exact same tactics. you have a number of worried northerners writing in saying, can the monitor defend itself against a vessel that has superior steam power? most of the northern public did not realize the merrimac's engines were barely able to move it, much less this idea that the merrimac is going to shoot these grappling hooks over the monitor and drag it back to norfolk. and then the rebels would have both ironclads and then the union cause would be lost. in fact, there is an anonymous letter from norfolk that's sent to lincoln saying that this
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diabolical plan is under way and that, quote, take warning in time. in fact, there was some reality to this. subpoena -- supposedly there were attempts that the confederates would attempt to board the monitor, wedge the turrent, and then use tarps to cover the pilot house and other openings and pour in chloroform. that somehow the union crew would all be put to sleep and the confederates would capture the ship that way, you know, figuring that nothing else could possibly go wrong with this particular scheme. but, of course, this never happens. the monitor and the merrimac never officially engage again. in fact, it's only fitting that, really, the end of the merrimac comes partially at the i
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instigation of abraham lincoln. lincoln had received all these letters asking him, cajoling him, and lincoln himself comes down to hampton roads on may 6 to survey the military situation, and he and secretary solomon p. chase and stanton will actually cruise around hampton roads and he's found a spot where the union army can land to capture norfolk. once norfolk is gone, the confederate ship is untenable. lincoln orders this attempt to be made. in fact, lincoln actually gets to see the merrimac come down the river to investigate some shelling that the union maybe is doing, and there's conflicting reports. the union reports say that merrimac shows up, we withdrew trying to lure her further down so that vanderbilt and the other big rams could get a shot at her where the confederates say,
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well, the union saw the merrimac come and go fled. they all went to hide under the guns of fortress monroe. the union landing does take place, norfolk does fall, and on may 11 the confederates blow up the merrimac. in fact, solomon p. chase, who finds it sometimes reluctant to praise abraham lincoln writes to his daughter saying, if lincoln had not come down, the merrimac would probably still be as great a terror as previously. lincoln's presence and his forceful insistence that something be done actually garnered results. but the ghost of the merrimac comes back to haunt the union after the end of the war. again, we think merrimac is blown up, end of story. that's not really the end of the
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story, because one of the other things i've run across in my wandering through the national archives, the federal government has three contracts after the war with salvage firms to do something about the wreck of the merrimac, which is sort of blocking the elizabeth river's shipping channel. apparently two of the contracts fall through, for whatever reason, and the third contract, which is apparently executed and finished by may 18, 1871, the salvage outfit is not terribly happy. they basically don't make any money at all. they bring up about 30 tons of wrought iron which largely gets sold for souvenirs, but again, they weren't terribly happy that they thought it would be a much more lucrative operation than it turned out. what was left of the hull and everything was left, but most of the iron was brought up. well, the one portion of this paper that i regret not having to give to you is the confederate response. one thing i really wanted to see
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is if people in the confederacy are coming up with similar lunatic ideas of how to deal with the monitor. unfortunately, most of those records were destroyed when richmond fell and the confederates burned most of the archives, so unfortunately, i don't have those to give you. a partial answer, of course, can be divined by the structure of experimental ships like the hunley or the use of stationary torpedos. the confederates were extremely invent acti inventive at trying to find ways of equalizing naval combat with such a powerful enemy. in the words of gideon wells, the clash of ironclads 150 years ago in hampton roads was the most remarkable naval combat of modern times perhaps of any age. the challenge of the merrimac had been met and then repelled, and thus a new era was open in the history of maritime warfare.
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the world and naval combat have never been the same since. thank you. [ applause ] >> i'd be happy to take any questions if there are any. i believe there is a microphone set up if you wish. no questions? hopefully i covered everything so thoroughly, there can be no doubts in your mind. anyway, thank you very much. [ applause ] for the last few weeks while
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congress has been on spring recess, we brought you american history in primetime. we conclude on friday with the looks at lives and careers of four u.s. military leaders. you can see those events friday starting at 8:00 p.m. eastern here on cspan-3. >> april 15, 1912. nearly 1500 perish on the ship called unsinkable. >> once the lookout bells were sounded, the lookout cited, iceberg ahead, they rang the bells three times, ding, ding, ding, which is a warning that there is some object ahead. it doesn't mean dead ahead, it means ahead of the ship and it doesn't say what kind of object. with the lookout after he struck the bell, he called down to the officer on the bridge to tell them what it is that they saw. and when the phone was finally
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answered, the entire conversation was, what do you see? and the response was, iceberg right ahead. and the response from the officer was, thank you. >> samuel halpern on the truth and see myths of that night. part of american history tv this weekend on cspan-3. this is cspan-3 with politics throughout the week and people and events telling the american story on american history tv. get our schedules and see past programs at our web sites. you can join in the conversation on social media sites. congress returns from its two-week spring recess this coming monday. while they're still on break, all this week here on cspan-3, we've been bringing you american history tv in prime time. tonight a visit to the mariners museum in newport news,
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virginia. a civil war navy conference in march to mark the 150th anniversary. we'll first hear from a naval history professor on the war along the atlantic coast. this is about 50 minutes. well, it's my great pleasure to introduce our opening session here for the battle of hampton roads weekend 150th edition. craig simonds is professor emeritus at the united states naval academy where he taught history and civil war history for 30 years. he thought he was retired. then he went back, and he's teaching there again. he's a native of anaheim, california. craig earned his b.a. degree at ucla and his master's from the university of florida where he studied under the late john k. mann. in the 1970s, he was in the navy, a navy officer and the
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first ensign ever to lecture at the college in newport, rhode island. he remained at college az civilian professor from 1974 to 1975. he's the author of at least 12 books -- maybe more by now. who is counting, right? he has written over 1 00 scholarly articles. he was the historian here at the mariners museum and helped us get everything right. so if something you see is right there and you love it, thank craig for it because he helped us out a lot. traveling around the country, telling the story of the u.s.s. monitor to all who would listen. like i said, even though he thought he had retired, you can't keep him still. his return to the u.s. naval
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academy this academic year as a distinguished professor of american naval heritage. he is still very much in demand all over the country as a speaker on civil war topics, he spoke at civil war round tables in 27 different states, we don't think he sleeps, and he does it all with the incomparable mary lou. and so thank her for lending craig to us here at the mariners museum. so with that, i'm going to turn it over to our wonderful opening speaker. [ applause ] >> thank you, anna. that's about the nicest introduction i've ever had. i really appreciate that very much. and congratulations to dr. holloway, anna holloway, and to this wonderful institution for putting together this weekend. for those of our guests who are
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watching this at home on cspan, let me make a plug here for this museum. if you have not been here, this is worth the trip, and everybody in this room knows that already. some of you at home may not, so let me argue that you should come out here and make a visit. my job here this morning at the podium is to talk about the sizz civil war along the atlantic coast. it seems an entirely appropriate subject for this event, marking as it does the 150th anniversary of the most iconic naval confrontation of the american civil war here on hampton roads. this battle was a centerpiece of a broader war that took place all up and down the atlantic coast from washington, d.c. to key west. but rather than talk about the battle in particular which others will do today, i'm going to try to establish some context for that battle and describe the war of which it was such an important part. and i'm going to start by talking about the blockade. now, this is a subject that often gets only passing
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attention from some civil war scholars. most acknowledge that there was a blockade during the civil war. they might mention the anaconda plan. they might note in passing that blockade was never fully effective and then move on to discuss, again, the peninsula campaign, shiloh and all the other iconic issues to make the civil war such an iconic turning point in our national history. in part, perhaps, this is because to many the history of the blockade seems a rather, well, tedious subject. and admittedly, much of it was. certainly for the thousands of men, tens of thousands of men, who spent their days bobbing around off the coast of the south atlantic where they swatted mosquitos and marked off the in tterminable days.
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in assessing the union blockade, it's important to appreciate that it was different from any that had ever been attempted previously. to be sure, the british had employed blockades as a strategy against the french in their interminable wars, against the revolution and the war of 1812, but the purpose of those blockades was to blockade enemy warships to prevent those warships from getting to sea. the object of the union blockade against the confederacy was very different and far more ambitious. it was, in lincoln's words, to prevent the entrance and exit of all vessels. all vessels of any kind from any port or any river mouth along 3500 miles of hostile coastline. that was a ludicrously ambitious
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objective. and because of that, lincoln's proclamation initially provoked ridicule in the south, skepticism in europe. after all, according to the international laws of war, a naval blockade was not legally binding on any neutral unless the blockading power stationed a competent force. that's the important phrase there. a competent force off every harbor that was under blockade. you couldn't merely say that a coastline was under blockade, you had to station a squadron off every one of those 189 navigable harbors and river mouths. without that, merchant ships of any neutral power were free to trade no matter what proclamations abraham lincoln might issue. many observers on both sides of the atlantic thought it simply couldn't be done. and even if it could, there was the legal problem that lincoln's
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pronouncement of a blockade could easily be considered a de facto resignation of the government, because after all, blockades could only be directed against foreign powers. did lincoln mean to imply that the confederacy was indeed a foreign power? whatever the long-term consequences of that legal complication, the more immediate problem was making the blockade effective in accordance with the legal requirement. gideon wells, who i saw earlier wandering around the passageways today, a union secretary of the navy, dispatched the handful of warships that were immediately available, a total of 12 of them, down to blockade the south's principle seaports. he ordered home all of the vessels that were currently overseas on distant station patrol. he embarked on a crash program to acquire new ships to ov.
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to oversee the acquisition of these new vessels, he hired a man named morgan. he happened to be wells' brother-in-law. as you can imagine, there was squawking about this, princip principally because morgan took a commission and ended up with quite a pile of money. morgan ended up buying a total of 89 vessels at a total cost of about $40,000 each, actually a pretty good bargain. those vessels were converted quickly into warships and several of the north's principal ports in new york, philadelphia and elsewhere, and soon there were a total of 264 ships by the end of 1862. a rapid, and to that moment, unprecedented naval station of resources, and the blockade no more than a factual notion in
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april was on its way to becoming a reality. as a collateral responsibility to stopping trade, the union navy also sought to seize big chunks of coastal land along the atlantic coast. the need to do this came from the logistical practicalities of warships. these warships had to be packed regularly with food and, of course, coal. the only basis the navy had to do this were at the extreme ends of the blockade, here in hampson roads, virginia and 1,000 miles to the south at key west, florida. ships blockading charleston, roughly halfway between the two, had to steam about 500 miles north or 500 miles south to get more coal, burning up about half of what they could carry to make the trip. for the long run, this simply
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would not do. they needed a closer refuge if a blockade was going to become effective. this led to several efforts to grab sections of the confederate coastline. and the first such effort took place on the carolina capes. the very geography of the carolinas made it a natural sanctuary for both blockade runners and armed vessels of the confederacy attempting to conduct commerce rating or gare decourse in the french race. the barrier islands offered natural protection to the sounds and the several inlets into those sounds not only offered the confederate sanctuary for their blockade runners, but also a hiding place to common placeres. in fact, it was used both during the american revolution and the war of 1812 for much the same
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purpose. and in fact, even before that, in the 18th century, by pirates. there is a little known fact. blackbeard himself was killed on the bath river in pimlico sound right about here in 1718 by british warships. well, in 1861, the confederates sought to protect that sanctuary by erecting coastal forts. the problem for the confederacy -- one of several problems for the confederacy was that the civil war took place at just that moment in history when seagoing ordinance warships could at last match and even overmatch shore fortifications. between ships and forts, bet on
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the fort. first of all, they didn't sink. they were made generally of stone, not wood, and like the ships, they could support bigger, more accurate guns. but the advent of steam propulsion in the several decades before the civil war, which made ships a moving target and rifled guns in the decade just before the civil war, rifled guns firing explosive shells which gave the ships a greater offensive power, all of that changed the relative balance of power between ships and forts. especially since many of the forts along the coast built by the confederates just in the first few days after succession were made of log and earth rather than heavy stone. when, in august of 1861, the union sent a naval squadron commanded by commodore silas

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